Karissa and Rae Ann both expressed an interest in visiting clinics and hospitals while we’re in Niger. We were very fortunate that the doctor at the local mission hospital was willing to let them shadow him a couple of mornings this week. Since he’s currently the only doctor at the hospital and is so busy, it was very kind of him. I asked Karissa and Rae Ann to write a few paragraphs about their experience.
We were able to tour the hospital in Danja and shadow Dr. Mark on his morning rounds. The hospital is made up of multiple low buildings built of cement blocks with cement floors. The windows all have screens on them, but the insidious dust is everywhere, as are the flies. There is quite a variety of case types, the malaria being a contributing factor in most of the patients. About half of the cases are leprosy and between that and the burn patients there is quite a lot of wound care. They are limited to gauze and water or saline, none of the fancy products we use in the States.
We were able to speak with a woman who had delivered a baby at home on Sunday and nearly died from complications. Dr Mark was able to speak via phone with the midwife and guide her through the treatment. She was transported to the hospital, given IV fluids and antibiotics and was discharged with her healthy baby on Wednesday. An amazing story!
I saw equipment—-but not much of it—–that I hadn’t seen since I was working in a Duluth hospital 40 years ago! Manual BP cuffs, stainless steel trays and forceps, etc., that are autoclaved on site. No disposables! Paper charts, one room lab and pharmacy, 4 & 5 bed wards with no sinks or toilets in any of them. The family is responsible for the care, food and linens of each patient. We could see them camped out on the edge of the hospital grounds. The nurses were very busy helping with rounds and administering the medications.
Television shows can give a slight insight into what to expect in terms of accommodations, but in all honesty, one cannot imagine the number of flies resting on healing wounds, the smell of having fifteen plus people in the same room who haven’t showered in days, and the amount of suffering from ailments that are easily curable in the United States. It breaks your heart to think of the strict rules and regulations we have to benefit us in developed areas, where here most of those things go out the window simply because they don’t have the supplies or number of bodies needed to make hospitals run as cleanly. In the US it takes a couple of hours to discharge a patient, but here the doctor says you can go and 15 minutes later…you’re gone! No papers to sign at all! So in some people’s eyes I suppose it would be a benefit! Speaking with Dr. Mark afterward, I referred to his “calling” and he informed us that it was actually a privilege and not a calling at all. He is grateful to be working with the people of Niger. And he really means it, you can see it as he travels about the hospital.